Europe funds $11M for research on smarter water systems

Jan. 31, 2022
Funded through through the European Research Council's (ERC) Synergy Grant, the research team will develop an open-source toolbox to help policymakers plan smart water infrastructure.

A new European collaboration will explore out how municipalities can design urban drinking water systems fit for the future.

Titled ‘Smart Water Futures: Designing the Next Generation of Urban Drinking Water Systems’, the six-year project will receive a total of €10 million ($11.2 million USD) through the European Research Council's (ERC) Synergy Grant.

High levels of urbanization — 70 per cent of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050 — coupled with the impacts of climate change will accelerate the increase in water demand. The project’s research will link short-term decisions with longer-term thinking to create resilient infrastructure for unpredictable environments.

"Sustainable planning and management of water infrastructure are difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize,” said Savić.

As water networks become more advanced with the integration of digital technologies, more data will be generated — leading ultimately to large-scale, complex cyber-physical systems. The project aims to contribute to the design and operation of these next-generation smart water systems. The team also plans to develop an open-source toolbox to help policymakers better plan their water infrastructure.

“Real-time monitoring and control will be integrated with long-term robustness and flexibility, while incorporating economic, social, ethical and environmental considerations,” said Professor Polycarpou.

Professor Barbara Hammer added: “We will face problems that will become moving targets due to changes in the environments and demand. We need to devise robust methods to deal with these uncertainties under continuous changes.”

Smart Water Futures will use a systems innovation approach to co-design future urban water systems by co-developing the necessary technological, policy and financial pathways.

It will be led by a team that combines leading experience on water science, systems and control theory, economics and decision science, and machine learning.

Four prominent European scientists will oversee the Water-Futures initiative:

  • Professor Dragan Savić, CEO of KWR Water Research Institute (KWR), the Netherlands and Professor of Hydroinformatics at the University of Exeter, UK
  • Professor Barbara Hammer, Machine Learning Group at Bielefeld University, Germany
  • Professor Phoebe Koundouri, Professor of Economics at the Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece
  • Professor Marios Polycarpou, Director of the KIOS Research and Innovation Center of Excellence and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Cyprus.

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